Embezzlement in SC: Charge & Penalties
Embezzlement sounds like one of those words that come up only in the legal arena.
You’ve probably heard of someone embezzling money, but what exactly does this mean?
Let’s assume someone trusts you to deal with a certain amount of money for a specific reason. Instead of you using the money for that special reason, you decide to use it for some other reason without permission. In this hypothetical, you have embezzled the money.
Embezzlement: The Charge
Embezzlement can refer to money or property. Embezzlement is considered a white collar crime because it occurs most often when someone has a job at a corporation or business.
When an employee is entrusted with keeping money or property that does not belong to them, it’s against the law for that employee to keep the funds for themselves, give it to someone who is not allowed to have that same money or property.
Since the person originally was allowed to have the funds to begin with, there may be a grey area when it comes to actually proving this crime occurred.
So, what does the state/government have to prove for someone to be found guilty?
There are a number of things the government must prove, including:
- The government has to prove that the employee illegally manipulated the resources, property or money after the victim put their trust in that property or money.
- The state must prove that the person accused of taking the money got access to that property through an agreement or arrangement with the victim. The victim is the person who is now out of the money or property.
- The state must also prove that the person accused intended to permanently take that property from the owner. In other words, the person who took the property had no intention of ever giving it back to the rightful owner.
Is hiring a lawyer important if you have been accused of embezzlement?
Yes. An embezzlement case is not always black and white. A criminal lawyer can help you understand what your defenses are and the good and bad things about your case. A lawyer’s arguments in your case could mean the difference between going to jail and not going to jail, between salvaging your reputation or not.
Something as simple as human error or mistake can mean someone is wrongfully charged with embezzlement. An attorney may be able to help advise you on how to fight the unfair presumption that funds have been embezzled. An attorney may be able to subpoena business records, accounts, emails, texts, calls and other types of correspondence to help prove your innocence.
An attorney may be able to help you get this behind you and return you to the status in your life before any of these allegations were brought up against you. You are probably worried about losing your job and getting a job in the future with this charge hanging over your head like a black cloud.
Embezzlement: Potential Penalties for a Conviction
Part of your anxiety about being charged with a crime like this is, “What am I facing?” “Am I going to jail?” “Will I lose my freedom?” “Will I be a convicted felon?” “How could I go from being a hard working employee/business man or woman for many years and then be suddenly be faced with being a convicted felon?”
The answers depend on how much money or property the government can prove that you embezzled. Sometimes fines are imposed in proportion to the amount embezzled. The court may take into account your ability to pay. You may receive jail time and a fine, depending on your individual case. Probation may be an option in lieu of jail time.
Value of $10,000 or more
If the value of the goods or money taken is $10,000 or more, it is a felony in SC. You could be facing 0-10 years in jail if you are convicted. The judge can fine you in his/her discretion. The victim in the case will be allowed an opportunity to address the judge during certain phases of the case if they chose to do so under the Victim’s Rights Act.
Value of less than $10,000
If the value of the goods or money taken is less than $10,000, it is a felony in SC. You could be facing 0-5 years in jail if you are convicted. You could be facing a fine and jail time. The judge can fine you in his/her discretion. The victim in the case will be allowed an opportunity to address the judge during certain phases of the case if they chose to do so under the Victim’s Rights Act.
Federal Embezzlement Charges
Embezzlement isn’t just a State charge; depending on the amount you are accused of taking and/or whether it was a government contract, it could be a federal case. There are many other factors that can make an embezzlement case a federal case that are not covered in this article.
These are some of the many factors that will be considered:
- How many people were involved?
- Will this be considered a conspiracy?
- What time period does the government allege you were involved?
- Does this cross state lines?
- Does your case involve a contract with state or federal government?
- Will you be responsible for the amount that you took or will you also be roped into what your co-defendants took?
- Were you a major ringleader in this case?
- Were you aware of the other folks involved?
Need help with an embezzlement charge?
The collateral consequences of being convicted of embezzlement are too many to list in this article, but your SC criminal attorney can advise you. You may not only lose your job, but this crime of dishonesty could cause you to not be able to get anywhere near as good a job in the future.
You may have to surrender your professional license. You may not ever be able to work in that type of job again. You will lose some Constitutional rights with being a convicted felon. You won’t be able hold public office in South Carolina unless a ⅔ vote of the General Assembly allows it AND repayment of the embezzled funds plus interest.
Facing an embezzlement charge is particularly stressful for people because typically they have never been in trouble with law enforcement in their lives, except maybe a speeding ticket. You need someone to help you through this unfamiliar process.
Contact attorney Susan Williams. Call (843) 607-9800 or contact us through our online form.
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